My first blood donation

My first blood donation {Heather's Handmade Life}

When you’re a parent, you’re always coming up with little teachable moments in which you show your children ways they can be good human beings.

It’s why we have discussions about homelessness when we pass the shelter in our town. It’s why I make a point of reminding them that not everyone is a “him” or “her” (it’s never too early to learn “they/their” pronouns). It’s why I take them to the food bank every December to drop off donations and talk about our family’s monthly donation to Feed Nova Scotia.

My latest idea for a teachable moment came when I realized I could take them with me to donate blood. I’d never done it before, but after a decade of low iron, I thought my hemoglobin levels were finally high enough to qualify. I signed up online ( and also made an appointment for my husband. It was going to be a family affair!

The kids were intrigued when we entered the hotel conference room with its hospital-style chairs medical equipment. I rambled on about the importance of donating blood and how one donation can help three people who need it. We talked about how people who are sick need blood and people who are in accidents need blood. I was feeling pretty smug about being able to finally donate.

The kids waited patiently while my husband and I filled out questionnaires on iPads and had our blood tested in little cubicles. (My hemoglobin levels were too low on the first prick, but squeaked above the acceptable level on the second two tries.)

My husband and I scored side-by-side chairs for our “date” while the kids sat on the carpet between us. Our son was buried in a novel he’d brought along, but our daughter watched with fascination as we were hooked up and the blood started flowing. No, I assured her calmly, they’re not taking ALL of my blood.

My husband, who has donated many times before, finished filling his bag first and took the kids over to the cookies-and-juice table. I finished a few minutes later and lay back in my chair, holding a piece of gauze over my puncture. I felt exceedingly proud of myself. I was going to do this regularly! Maybe I could even donate plasma? I’d heard that’s … uh-oh.

The wooziness came on quickly and my vision started to darken. My chest felt heavy as I murmured to my phlebotomist that I didn’t feel very well. There was a flurry of people around me suddenly, calling for cold cloths and blasting fans on my face. They kept telling me to open my eyes, but it felt like the hardest thing in the world.

“What’s happening to Mom?” our son asked casually from the snack table, where he was popping Timbits in his mouth. Our daughter didn’t even look — she had discovered the jam-filled cookies and happily slurping her second juice box.

Fifteen minutes later, I was allowed to walk over to the snack table and gingerly sit down next to the kids. I nibbled a sugar-dusted Timbit and drank a little more juice, and felt much better. 

The Canadian Blood Services employees were so nice and kept checking on me to make sure I was OK. They did, however, tell me I should probably not try to give blood again, since I have a history of vasovagal syncope (fainting). I felt silly for not realizing that might be an issue, but I’d never had a problem giving blood in the hospital — although, of course, that’s not as much blood.

It may not be the regular gig I had planned, but I still finished my donation and my blood might help three people, so that’s something. As we walked back out to the truck, I reminded the kids that what we’d done was important because our blood might save somebody’s life.

“Best day ever!” our daughter sang as she skipped through the parking lot. No, not because we might have saved lives — because of the amazing spread of cookies, Timbits and juice boxes. “Can we come back tomorrow?”

Well, at least I’ve inspired a future donor — even if she’s just doing it for the snacks.


One Comment on “My first blood donation

  1. The same things happens to me even when I get the slightest blood work. I always feel such guilt about not being able to donate blood because my mom receives so much of it. We have different blood types, but I’d love to know I’m helping someone else because it’s quite literally saving her life.


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